Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New York: A Weekend of Fusion

Last weekend, I went to New York for a short weekend trip... and it was a shock to the system. The weather was 15 degrees, and 0 degrees by night time. I've been to NY a good 6 times, but this was nuts. Anyway, I was originally going for a college friend's wedding in Long Island, but work came down the pipe... also in New York! My agency asked me to attend a photoshoot for a client at New York's electronic club, Crobar. I took the red eye Thursday, and after a few drinks at dinner with J at Terried Sake House and drinks at the airport, I ended up passing out on my flight and waking up at 6 am... with only 1.5 hours till arrival. There's nothing better than sleeping the majority of your flight away. From JFK, I took a $45 flat fee taxi ride into Manhattan, an hour away. New York is not cheap! I was so tired from the binge drinking and flying, that I had to pass out at the hotel... the beautiful, Hudson Hotel. Designed by Ian Schrager, this boutique hotel is one that exhibits a very interesting concept... dark wood, bricks, ivy and taxidermy. Snazzy. A little bit of modernism and wilderness meshed together. The Hudson brings out the nature boy in everyone.

Be My Guest
Definitely check out Flickr's images of the Hudson Hotel and you'll know what I was googling at.

One Horny Lamp
This is a must for any pornstar in the Valley. These go well with polar bear rugs if you can afford one. They'd all go very well with my leopard-skin speedos and sheets. A perfect way to light up my room filled with the music of Kenny G and Yanni. Nice visual I know.

This was truly a work of art, although I didn't understand the neon lenticulars.

Billy Boy
This billy goat reminded me of the delicious birria (goat) taco that J and I had at El Parian in the Pico-Union area. Poor, delicious goat - good thing our friends at El Parian didn't see him - he'd be dinner. At least he's dying with style in the Hudson Hotel.

After a nice 3 hour nap in my $300 room that I wasn't paying for, I headed over to the Chelsea area to work. I was done within a few hours, and finally, my stomach started to talk to me. Yes, my fat one, I know... it's time to eat. I called upon my foodie friend DY, who took me to great places when she lived in SF, to show me around. We were also joined by my friend John Downs, who is a foodie in the making. His goal was to try out things he's never had and my goal was to convert him from John Downs to... Jéan Downs. Which pretty much meant food other than McD's, Souplantation, Musha and any Korean BBQ joint haha. DY recommended one of NY's top restaurants, WD-50, run by Chef Wylie Dufresne. You might have seen him in the Iron Chef America competition against Mario Batali (Battle Tilapia) and most recently, as a judge in Bravo's Top Chef series. Chef Dufresne is known for his molecular-gastronomic cooking techniques, in which he uses scientific methods to prepare food. Nice... I never thought beakers and Bunsen burners would be hip again. FYI, I was once a Chemistry major but that didn't last more than a quarter haha.

We trucked down to the Lower East Side of Manhattan towards WD-50 in 15 degree weather. With the wind freezing every part of my face, including my nosehairs, I thought about nothing else but the warm, delicious food I was about to eat. If Mt. Everest were laid flat, this would be the same type of expedition. I expected to see frozen carcasses of cat-sized NY rats along the curb. They too had heard about WD-50 and gone on the mission through the cold. After 20 minutes of walking, we reached our goal. Because NY restaurants don't really close till 2 or 3 am, a 10:30 reservation was quite normal. The restaurant was full and we quickly sat at the watering hole to get the stomach warmed-up. Within a few minutes we were seated. DY and I decided to split a few appetizers and main courses, versus ordering separate tasting menus priced at $115 per person. Quite hefty for me.

Hamachi in Oatmeal Consomme
Oh yes, a treat from the tasting menu, sent by the chef to all tables. I love receiving small culinary gifts. The hamachi was super fresh and was well balanced with a sour granny smith apple, candied celery in the warm oatmeal broth.

Jéan Downs: "Sushi. Facking delicious."

Hangar Tartare with Pickled Asian Pear, Amaro and Bernáise Ice Cream
This was beautifully plated and my first time pretty much eating raw beef. The beef was super fresh and well complimented by the pickled asian pear and Bernáise ice cream. My favorite appetizer of the night.

Jéan Downs: "Nice, raw beef. I liked the ice cream but not the sweet sauce. Still, facking delicious."

Corned Duck on Rye Crisp with Purple Mustard and Horseradish Cream
This was beautifully plated. We didn't understand the usage of both mustard and horseradish. DY and I felt it was too strong and wished we could taste the duck more. Still a very nice appetizer.

Jéan Downs: "Facking delicious."

Foie Gras with Mole "Lentils" and Quince Yogurt
This was absolutely amazing. The foie gras beautifully cooked and the "lentils" and quince yogurt perfectly countered the rich taste of foie gras. I love foie gras, but too much of it can be overwhelming. The reason I put lentils in quotation because they are not lentils. Our knowledgeable and friendly waiter, Evan, explained the process used in cooking the "lentils". Using hot water, the mole is dropped from a certain height into the water pot. The splashing process breaks the mole into perfect "lentil" shapes. We felt like we were being lectured by Alton Brown. This was my favorite appetizer of the night! I was worried Jéan Downs wouldn't like this dish because it was somewhat bloody and possibly too rich for a palate too used to fried Costco food haha.

Jéan Downs: "Bloody. Facking delicious."

Duck Breast with Soy Spaetzle, Jicama and Pickled Ramp
Duck was cooked to a perfect medium doneness. What really brought this dish alive was the sauce. Acidic, spicy and rich - excellent.

Jéan Downs: "Duck was somewhat chewy, but yet, facking delicious."

Lamb Ribs with Chinese Broccoli in Banana Cónsomme
Banana consomme?! Yes, I want to try that. This is the first time I've ever seen banana flavored broth/consomme. The lamb tasted nice and tender... but the bitterness of the Chinese broccoli (gai-lan) went very well with the banana cónsomme. My friend had this and I kept drinking the cónsomme.

Jéan Downs: "I like the broth. Facking delicious."

Pork Belly with Smoked Yucca, Romaine and Papaya
Perfectly cooked pork belly. What looks like fried tofu is actually fried yucca.

Jéan Downs: "It's like bacon. Facking delicious."

Beef Shortrib with Brussel Sprouds, Cheddar Sauce and Pink Lady Apple
This dish was really good. The cheese sauce and beef reminded me of a fancy burger. The shortrib was so tender and fatty - so good!

Jéan Downs: "I didn't try, but I'm sure it was facking delicious."

Turbot with Smoked Bulgur and Coffee-Saffron Sauce
This got the gold medal tonight from me. I've never had turbot and fell in love with it immediately. Chef WD poaches the fish in olive oil and the result is a perfectly buttery/moist piece of fish. I couldn't believe how tasty it was. I put this fish right below Chilean Seabass and Blackcod in the cooked fish category. The Coffee-saffron sauce was simply amazing. And I finally found a dish that caused food-envy...

Jéan Downs: "This is SUPER-facking delicious."

DY, Jéan Downs and I freaking ate a lot. If you couldn't tell, Jéan Downs is a man of few words and limited culinary vocabulary. But I admired his open-mindedness in trying háute cuisine. There's nothing more ignorant and annoying then ppl that say 'eew' even before trying. Just ask Eddie. Jéan Downs later on went to eat escargot, fried oysters, and bone marrow. Good boy. Anyway, at the end of the meal, I snapped my final shots and looked over to the kitchen. There I saw WD glancing at me as I took photos. I whispered to DY, shoot, he saw us! He started walking through the restaurant towards us and I could feel sweat starting to build up. I hope he didn't grab the camera from me and throw it in his banana cónsomme pot to braise. I bet it would taste good though. Instead of putting my head down, I said "hello" to him. We talked to him about his cooking techniques and asked if he minded the photos - not at all. He was supercool and superintelligent! Check out WD-50 if you get a chance, it's definitely an interesting experience for those interested in trying an up and coming style of cooking. Go molecules!

The next day, I was headed to Long Island for a beautiful wedding. It was so nice to get out of the compact city. No taxis to fight over, no humid subway stations to breathe in. Just beautiful towns covered in February snow. The train ride lasted no longer than an hour each way. I was able to get back to Manhattan by 11 pm at night and of course, my stomach was knocking on the door. Ok ok, let's go.

I met up with DY and her friend and we headed over to another New York hotspot. A place where chefs go to dine after their long nightshifts: Momofuku SSäm Bar. They also have a noodle bar that specializes in various pork ramen dishes.

SSäm Bar is really dim and cool inside. I like restaurants where I can see the kitchen activity. This place was pretty full even at midnight. DY said we had to try the Berkshire pork buns and Asian burritos.

Berkshire Pork Buns
Tender pork belly smacked between a bun with cold cucumbers and what tasted like hoisin sauce. Nice, but not worth the $8-9 for two.

Asian Burrito
Like it's relative, the Kalbi taco, this contained tender pork, rice, edamame beans and KIMCHI! I loved this. I'm going to try and make my own version at home. Seems easy enough.

The next day, I joined 12 of my other friends (also attending the wedding), including Le Culinary Food Critic, known for his explicit responses to food, Jéan Downs, for a Sunday brunch. New York is the Big city of Big dreams.... and also Big Xiao Long Baos. I'm talking BIG.

We were so excited to head down to the popular Joe's Shanghais but found ourselves caught in the eye of the storm. We had forgotten that it was Chinese New Year. Oh, lord. The constant banging of unrhythmic cymbals got to our nerves quite quickly. We dodged the parade and headed down small streets to our destination.

Oh great, there were nearly 30 people waiting outside for a table. After an hour long of enduring near-death experiences from the cold, we were shown our table.

And this is what we were coveting. (The people in the photo above are actually frozen. )

Xiao Long Bao (Mammoth Size)
I think these were as wide as 2". They weren't tall but you could just tell they were filled with delicious pork gelatin cubes... mmm. There I said it, it's pork fat you are drinking. I wonder if the customers at Din Tai Fung know that. Oh well. Anyway, one of our rookie friends went for the first grab with the tongs provided. Instead of grabbing by the head of the XLB and supporting the weight with a soup spoon, he grabbed it by the side. Lost cause. It was a bloody massacre, like an Italian mafia-whacking out in the public. He was consequently boo'd by everyone at the table which caught everyone in the restaurant's attention. They too, knew the travesty that had occurred.

Before I knew it, I was back on the plane to LA. I was overjoyed to hear the pilot announce "We are preparing to land in LAX now. The current temperature at our destination is 75 degrees." I wore the biggest smile and remembered that LA is definitely a great place to live and eat in. Thanks for reading.


Reid said...


I'm so envious that you got to go to New York. It's been more than 10 years since I was last there and I must say that I really miss winter the most.

I'm hoping to visit New York soon, if only to be able to eat at wd-50.

Food Marathon said...

A few years ago I took a nap in one of the bars of the Hudson Hotel. It was a long weekend, and the chairs are very comfortable. It might seem like a classless thing to do, but it IS a hotel afterall.

BoLA said...

D, I'm jealous that you got to go to NYC too!!! The Hudson looks awesome and the food at wd-50 INCREDIBLE! YOU LUCKY PIG! ;) LOL!

MeowMix said...

So jealous. Hudson Hotel for free, WD50 AND Joe's? No Fair!

Clare said...

Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang. The foie gras and fried pork belly look ridiculously delicious. Definitely worth the frostbite!

s'kat said...

I've never had any real desire to visit NY- aside from the food! Pho king brilliant, and I envy you your damn balmy LA weather!

Chubbypanda said...

Facking incredible. Way to seize a great opportunity.

Jeni said...

The Hudson Hotel is so hawt. I'm so jealous. I can't stand corporate hotels with tacky bedspreads and green and red paisley rugs. It's either hostel or boutique hotel for me.

I really love your WD-50 photos...who taught you how to adjust the white balance???

mary said...

i couldn't help but leave a comment when i saw your Joe's Shanghai. i went back in '98 and loved it so much i had to go there again when i returned to ny in '00. it might be time for another trip...

have you tried the xiao long bao at Ding Tai Fung in Arcadia?

come visit our site: www.hungrycouple.com

i found you through Oshii's site. i like your pictures

GT said...

I love xiao long bao almost as much as my first love, ice cream. Forget Ding Tai Fung. Try J&J at the Prospect Plaza on Valley.

ROSIE said...

whoa, yum. I went there a few years ago (WD-50) and it is still one of my favorite meals of all time... you totally brought back some great memories. I mean, really, I am salivating. facking salivating.

Eddie Lin said...

Fack me!!! You matherfacker! First fackin' Bourdain, now this!!!

One Food Guy said...

Ah the Hudson, I know it well. A great hotel, if not for the TINY rooms and having to slide into the bathroom sideways to sit on the can. The see-through glass from the shower to the bed is classy though.

And the bars/lounge/courtyard, very cool.

I was in NYC the same weekend, didn't eat at WD-50 though, next time. I did grab a burger at Stand, and it was good.

Tokyoastrogirl said...

One day you're bloggin, the next you're on TV with Bourdain and now you're livin' The High Life.

I think you're going to have to get some bling to wear around your neck soon.

So jealous about your meal...and all of that pork fat!

Bon Vivant said...

I haven't been to NYC since Momofuku SSam opened but I can say that Noodle Bar has the best ramen (everything else is incredible there too); when I go to SSam I have to eat there twice since they have two menus depending on what time of night it is.

tstar said...

Aaaah, now I see what you ate while I was at PVD, I wouldn't have left either.;) I should have had you meet me at Babbo to take some fantastic pictures of the food there too. This blog made me hungry. I must try wd-50 next time I'm in NYC. :)

Anonymous said...

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Yesterday i boughtSword of the New World Gold for my brother.
i hope him like it. i will give Sword of the New World money to him
as birthday present. i like the cheap snw vis very much.
I usually buy vis and keep it in my store.

Anonymous said...

Nice blog~

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